MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
Air University (AU) Commander and President Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast hosted the annual Alabama Goodwill Ambassadors Appreciation Night held at the Maxwell Club here Tuesday.
The event recognized community members who volunteer as Alabama Goodwill Ambassadors (AGA) and the service they provide to international officers and their families attending AU schools and the International Officers School (IOS).
“This is one of my favorite nights because it celebrates something so foundational to the human race that is worth a tabulating and reminding all of us why this is so powerful,” Kwast said. “The power of friendship; the power of loving each other in a way that transcends all cultures and transcends all civilizations is at the bedrock of hope for a peaceful world. Today, we celebrate families in this community, in the River Region, here in Montgomery, Alabama.”
The AGA program began as a partnership between AU and the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce during World War II as a way to better acclimate international students and their families to the surrounding community.
In 1977, the program expanded to include other outside organizations such as civic clubs, churches and any interested persons. This expansion led to the name being changed from the International Sponsor Program to the name that is recognized today.
Among the AGAs recognized were Roosevelt and Evelyn Maryland, who have been sponsoring international students since 1985, when he was stationed at Gunter Annex. Over the years and now retired, the Marylands have supported 50 IOS classes.
Evelyn said that being recognized is not what’s important, but it’s the relationships they build with the students and how they become like family while they are here.
Thirteen Alabama Goodwill Ambassadors received recognition for their service.
However, only one was awarded the International Student Support Award.
Vicki Dendis was honored with the award for her support to the AU and IOS missions through organizing and training more than 40 volunteers for IOS’s Spouses Orientation Program. She coordinated 33 presentations to IOS students and their families, led the monthly spouse coffee groups and formed a “connect group” through cooking and book clubs and other various activities.
Dendis said the recognition is very nice, but not required. She said it is enough to be able to have these friendships and to the love the families, but the honor is nice and she is very thankful for the recognition.
“The International Officer School is grateful to our community volunteers who take on the role of Alabama Goodwill Ambassadors,” said Col. Scott Rizer, IOS commandant. “These volunteer sponsors shape our international families' perceptions of America and foster long-lasting friendships that help forge international partnerships and pave the way for future coalition endeavors."